*Illustration Credit: Pascal Campion
A couple of days ago Minnesota was hit with an unexpected snowstorm. I woke up to my mom, also an employee of the district, cheerfully calling into my room,
“No schoOol! Making waffles.”
I should’ve known better. I should’ve snuck out the basement door and driven until I saw the Golden Arches with my hot cakes already made. This was a trap. A bait and switch.
But in my booger eyed, half awake state, I crawled up the stairs and met her at the mixing bowl where she was cracking eggs. She must’ve seen my eyes gleam and mouth drip and knew she had me.
You get the waffles once you do the driveway.
I eyed the window behind her, the big flakes falling ever so fast.
“But, it’s stillll snowing-”
She was too preoccupied with the mixer.
“Mmm, yes, but it has to be done”
She could’ve just said, because I said so.
It would’ve been more honest.
My stomach growled and my face showed it. But… no driveway, no waffles. So. I got out my big boy boots and departed from the open garage into the gulf of wild white. Just a wide shovel and I against the world.
And it sucked.
I mean, really. Shoveling snow when it’s still snowing seems about as useful as bailing water out of sinking ship. Let nature take it course! Let the sun melt it or wait for some Samaritan that’s snowplow-ready and willing to remove it.
The snow was so marshy and thick that every scoop felt like a spoon full of rocks. And I really shouldn’t’ve worn jeans, the snow soaked right through, sending slow cold drips down my legs, absorbed in my socks, leaving me with really heavy boots. Boots that I would fall out of from minute to minute because they were way too big.
But after an hour, it was a success. The late arriving snowplow gets some of the credit, but still, I did it.
And the waffles were well worth it.
Yesterday, I felt both burdened and blank. For awhile now, maybe since I got back to the US, I’ve been trying to keep control of everything on my own. I’ve been trying to be more free to pursue my passions and live life by the seat of my pants. While I definitely let my freak flag fly and it was liberating, I didn’t see all the little anxious thoughts falling on in until they condensed and I broke beneath them.
I threw my hands high in the air. I drove to the place where I go when I don’t know where to go. It’s by this lake facing west, the sun sets behind the thin tall trees on the other side.
It dawned on me recently how whenever I lose touch with Jesus, I become more disconnected from myself. I am an enforcer and an encourager at work, I am funny, but awkward, with my friends, and I am the youngest boy with big dreams in my family. Normally, these things all sort of bridge and form this web of who I am. But lately, the threads have stretched and tensed. I am losing myself in my changing hats. I am losing myself in this season.
Staring out across the great expanse of ice, I waited for Him to come romantically, to float across the lake into the yawning acres of my heart. Having not prayed in awhile, I wasn’t sure how to go about it honestly and with right motives. But I couldn’t muster anything real. Everything I said felt like a dodge or not my real voice. I couldn’t just come. Even though it was unprepared, my words felt practiced, like years of prayer usually does.
All I wanted in this moment was to be free from my uncontrollable anxiety. For him to just take it and nail it to the cross.
Hearing nothing, I flipped open my Bible to where I had left off. Maybe I could find a word in the Word. It was Matthew’s narrative of the Jesus story in chapter 6. And without knowing what was to come, this is what I read.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6 (MSG)
Grace like a shovel. Grace like a sunset.
It was startling since it spoke to exactly where I was. In my quiet place, trying to draw out my truest words and thoughts. Knowing that if I could just get this right, if I could just get His attention, all the anxiety piling up in my mind might be released, transferred, hushed.
I set the Book down and looked again the Lake. The sun was on its slow descent down behind the trees. The rays were being split, long stripes of shadow and shine stretching across the ice to my car. And it felt like a lunge. Like the arms of God reaching to pull me toward Him. Words won’t do here.
I knew that this moment was, just that, a moment.
This wouldn’t be my last trip to the lake. The anxiety would keep falling and if I let it, thoughts would pack together and bring me back broken again. But at the same time, I felt him washing me clean. I started to spill over with my aches and fears, as true as they felt. It was a struggle at first, but the weight was becoming lighter. I felt Him scooping out all those insecurities and what-ifs. I felt him wanting more of me. Wanting a relationship of give and take.
Maybe that’s what prayer is all about.
You come heavy, you leave whole. You come empty and you leave filled. You come broken, you leave better. You come and you go, you come and you go, you come and you go, and somewhere along the way, this God becomes the bridge that holds you completely together. Keeping you connected with yourself, keeping you clean of anxiety.
The quick fixes I was looking for were not going to be given. I will never be completely, anxiety and insecurity free. The same way I cannot stop the snow from falling.
But He can.
He can meet us and draw us out of the heavy and thick thoughts that bury us. And maybe, just in that moment, we’ll remember how much we need him.